Inventing Impressionism review – a superb exhibition in every respect

The Sheepfold, Moonlight, 1856-60 by Jean-François Millet: ‘sheep, moon, shepherd, dog: what a great sonneteer and shape-maker he was’.
Photograph: Alamy

The man who invented impressionism was not a painter but a dealer – a silk-hatted monarchist with a taste for ormolu clocks who created a market for paintings that nobody liked. Paul Durand-Ruel was the saviour of Manet, Monet and Pissarro. For years he was the only dealer brave enough to promote the impressionists, helping them with their doctors’ bills, their studios and even their rent; sometimes he was their only customer.

None of this makes Durand-Ruel a hero, of course, compared to the revolutionary painters whose work he sold. So an entire show dedicated to this dealer’s activities seemed a dubious and compromising prospect. How hard

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